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Adapting to Change

by Em16


This is an essay for the Penguin Classics Essay Contest. It's based on the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, which is about a Native American man named Tayo. Tayo went to fight in World War 2 with his brother Rocky. Rocky is technically his cousin, but Tayo's mother died when he was young, and left him with Rocky's mother, whom Tayo calls Auntie. Tayo also had an uncle named Josiah. Josiah dreamed of making a herd of cattle that would be resistant to drought, and Rocky dreamed of going to college on a football scholarship and being successful in the white world. However, Rocky volunteered as a soldier with Tayo and died in the Pacific. Josiah died at home, while they were off fighting, after his herd of cattle got lost. Tayo comes home and struggles to deal with the aftermath. Old Betonie is a medicine man Tayo goes to see in hopes of getting healed.The question I responded to was this:

Compare Tayo’s physical and psychological condition when he came home from the war to his condition at the end of the novel. Which experience or personal interaction most helped him to move toward healing?

Adapting to Change

By Erin Mullens

During World War II, thousands of Native Americans served in the US military. For many of them, this was the first time they had left their reservation. They were introduced to the cities, customs, and warfare of white men, and the experience changed them. One of those affected was Tayo, the protagonist of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. Both Tayo’s brother, Rocky, and his uncle, Josiah die during the war. They each had a particularly strong presence in his life, and Tayo has a hard time adjusting to their absence. Tayo struggles to adjust to the changes in his life, just as the wider Pueblo community struggles to adjust to the changes Europeans have imposed. But by the end of the novel the medicine man Old Betonie has helped Tayo find balance in his new life.

Tayo's mind is troubled by memories of before the war. Tayo “could get no rest as long as the memories were tangled with the present” (6). Everything reminds him of Rocky and Josiah; while their bodies are dead, they are still alive in his mind. When he returns to America, one of the first things he sees is “the face of the little boy, looking back at him, smiling… it was Rocky’s smiling face from a long time before when they were little kids together” (16). The reason he is still so preoccupied with them is because he thinks their deaths were a mistake. Josiah and Rocky both had hopes and plans for the future, but their deaths abruptly ended those expectations. Tayo, who had no plans for the future, is still alive. He thinks “it was him, Tayo, who had died, but somehow there had been a mistake with the corpses, and somehow his was still unburied” (25). This new, radically different life is hard for him to comprehend.

While Tayo is struggling to adjust to the changes in his personal life, the Pueblo community struggles with their place in the white world. In order that he may succeed in the white man’s world, Auntie pushes Rocky to study and play football. However, she dislikes Tayo because she believes his white blood to be shameful. She wants to be a model citizen, but she is confused as to what makes a person a model citizen. Is it having white blood? Or is it being successful in a white man’s world? Part of the Pueblo struggle is rooted in the land. It’s still the same land, with the same hills and valleys and plants that the Pueblo people lived on for hundreds of years. But now white men have come, erecting barbed wire fences, mining for uranium, and using it to test nuclear bombs. They struggle to feel connected to the land when it is in the control of white men. To them, “the fifth world had become entangled with European names… all of creation suddenly had two names: an Indian name and a white name” (62). Just like the deaths of Rocky and Josiah, this was not expected. Now, the Pueblo people are struggling to live in a world of unforeseen and unwanted changes.

Old Betonie helps Tayo adjust to the changes in his life and in the wider world. With Old Betonie, Tayo reveals his feelings of guilt in the deaths of Josiah and Rocky, that they “loved me, and I didn’t do anything” to save them (114). By acknowledging his presumed guilt, he is also acknowledging the fact that they died. Old Betonie helps Tayo realize it was not his fault, that “the witchery ranging as wide as this world” killed Rocky and Josiah (114). Rocky and Josiah were killed by a larger force over which Tayo had no control. Part of that larger force is the presence of the white men, the people who “took almost everything” (117). Old Betonie, however, is not bothered by the presence of the white men. He knows, for all they have taken away, they have not taken away the most important thing. The white people “only fool themselves” when they believe the land is their own, because “it is the people who belong to the mountain” (118). Nothing can sever Tayo’s personal connection to the land.

Throughout the novel, there is an incredible sense of loss. Everyone has lost what they previously thought they could not live without. Tayo has lost Josiah and Rocky, and the Pueblo people have lost control of their land. They don’t know how to continue after such changes. But they come to realize they did not lose everything. Tayo still has his connection to the land, he still has his life, even if he lost Josiah and Rocky, and his ancestors lost the rights to their land. As Old Betonie says, “Don’t be so quick to call something good or bad. There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain” (120). 


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Sun Apr 26, 2020 5:13 am
yellow wrote a review...



hello, it's yellow! happy review day!

first of all, i just want to say that i love getting the chance to read essays on the site. i love learning new things and i love geeking out over what information has the writer to share, so i am glad i found and read this!

the one thing i truly admire about this whole essay is that this is something so socially relevant. everyone faces change. in fact, we are in a completely changing world right now, where we don't know what is going to happen within the next day. particularly, the focus on native american culture is very interesting because that itself is also very socially relevant. fantastic job with hitting this spot on.

despite there is a review from a ravenclaw, i do agree with everything below in the review. there could be several changes with grammar and wording and i could not say it better than the suggestions in that review.

now, i'm not exactly sure of what the prompt of the essay was, but i think it would be very interesting if you added your own input of the book. what did you learn? what did you think of it? how can we apply the lessons written in the book into our daily lives? if you intertwined these ideas throughout your current paragraphs, i think that would be an excellent addition.

the thing i want to comment on that i love is your sourcing. i have come across some essays on the site and they do not have proper in-text citations at all, but you did this wonderfully. i commend you on going back through the book and adding in quotations and paraphrased quotes to back up the information that you are writing in the essay. although, i just want to note one thing.

Old Betonie helps Tayo adjust to the changes in his life and in the wider world. With Old Betonie, Tayo reveals his feelings of guilt in the deaths of Josiah and Rocky, that they “loved me, and I didn’t do anything” to save them (114). By acknowledging his presumed guilt, he is also acknowledging the fact that they died. Old Betonie helps Tayo realize it was not his fault, that “the witchery ranging as wide as this world” killed Rocky and Josiah (114).


since you are getting these two quotes from the same page, it's unnecessary to have the first "(114)" in this portion. if you have the second one, though, that would do just fine. cutting out that extra citation will make the read much smoother and it's not as needed.

you did a fantastic job on this! like with everything, although, there is always room for improvement. i hope you succeeded in the essay contest, by the way! i can't wait to read any more essays that you post!

-yellow




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Mon Apr 06, 2020 11:15 pm
whatchamacallit wrote a review...



Hi Em16! Whatchamacallit here to review.

Below I've put a spoiler of grammar and wording suggestions

Spoiler! :

During World War II, thousands of Native Americans served in the US military. For many of them, this was the first time they had left their reservation. They were introduced to the cities, customs, and warfare of white men, and the experience changed them. One of those affected was is (I imagine you want everything in present tense?) Tayo, the protagonist of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. Both Tayo’s brother, Rocky, and his uncle, Josiah die during the war. They each had a particularly (unnecessary) strong presence in his life, and Tayo has a hard time adjusting to their absence. Tayo struggles to adjust to the changes in his life, just as the wider Pueblo community struggles to adjust to the changes Europeans have imposed. But by the end of the novel the medicine man Old Betonie has helped Tayo find balance in his new life.

Tayo's mind is troubled by memories of before the war. Tayo “could get no rest as long as the memories were tangled with the present” (6). Everything reminds him of Rocky and Josiah; while their bodies are dead, they are still alive in his mind. When he returns to America, one of the first things he sees is “the face of the little boy, looking back at him, smiling… it was Rocky’s smiling face from a long time before when they were little kids together” (16). The reason he is still so preoccupied with them is because he thinks their deaths were a mistake. Josiah and Rocky both had hopes and plans for the future, but their deaths abruptly ended those expectations. Tayo, who had no plans for the future, is still alive. He thinks “it was him, Tayo, who had died, but somehow there had been a mistake with the corpses, and somehow his was still unburied” (25). This new, radically different life is hard for him to comprehend.

While Tayo is struggling to adjust to the changes in his personal life, the Pueblo community struggles with their place in the white world. Maybe add something like: "An example of the Pueblo struggle is shown through Auntie's actions and internal deliberations" to lead into the next idea. In order that he may succeed in the white man’s world, Auntie pushes Rocky to study and play football. Reorder sentence: "Auntie pushes Rocky to study and play football, so that he may succeed in the white man's world". However, she dislikes Tayo because she believes his white blood to be shameful. She wants to be a model citizen, (Does she want to be a model citizen? Or does she want her son to be a model citizen? You give an example of how she encourages her son to act, but not how she acts, so this is a little confusing. Maybe elaborate on the idea.) but she is confused as to what makes a person a model citizen. Is it having white blood? Or is it being successful in a white man’s world? Part of the Pueblo struggle is rooted in the land. It’s still the same land, with the same hills and valleys and plants that the Pueblo people lived on for hundreds of years. But now white men have come, erecting barbed wire fences, mining for uranium, and using it to test nuclear bombs. They The Pueblo struggle to feel connected to the land when it is in the control of white men. To them, “the fifth world had become entangled with European names… all of creation suddenly had two names: an Indian name and a white name” (62). Just like the deaths of Rocky and Josiah, this was not expected (Maybe add, "and the effects were negative" or something). Now, the Pueblo people are struggling to live in a world of unforeseen and unwanted changes.

Old Betonie helps Tayo adjust to the changes in his life and in the wider world. With Old Betonie, Tayo reveals his feelings of guilt in about the deaths of Josiah and Rocky, that they “loved me, and I didn’t do anything” to save them (114). By acknowledging his presumed guilt, he is also acknowledging the fact that they died. Old Betonie helps Tayo realize it was not his fault, that “the witchery ranging as wide as this world” killed Rocky and Josiah (114). Rocky and Josiah were killed by a larger force over which Tayo had no control. Part of that larger force is the presence of the white men, the people who “took almost everything” (117). Old Betonie, however, is not bothered by the presence of the white men. He knows, for all they have taken away, they have not taken away the most important thing. The white people “only fool themselves” when they believe the land is their's own, because it is owned by the “it is the people who belong to the mountain” (118). Nothing can sever Tayo’s personal connection to the land.

Throughout the novel, there is an incredible sense of loss. Everyone has lost what they previously thought they could not live without. Tayo has lost Josiah and Rocky, and the Pueblo people have lost control of their land. They don’t know how to continue after such changes. But they come to realize they did not lose everything. Tayo still has his connection to the land, he still has his life, even if he lost Josiah and Rocky, and and even if his ancestors lost the rights to their land. As Old Betonie says, “Don’t be so quick to call something good or bad. There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain” (120).


Overall, this is a very well written essay. I hope my changes all made sense; if not, feel free to ask for clarification.

Hope you found this review helpful!

Whatchamacallit




Em16 says...


Thank you so much! This was super helpful.





I'm glad it helped :]




The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances.
— Unknown